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ODU's Institute for Community Justice to Co-sponsor Community Event on Youth Incarceration

When is a youth considered an adult in the juvenile court system? Does trying a youth as an adult actually deter him or her from committing a crime? These questions and more will be explored at a free public event today in Norfolk.

Old Dominion University's Institute for Community Justice, along with the city of Norfolk, the Norfolk Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative, and Families & Allies of Virginia's Youth, are co-sponsoring a "Community Youth Justice Jam" to educate the community and encourage dialogue among community members about juvenile justice reform, with a focus on transfer and certification laws in Virginia.

The event, organized by the JustChildren Program of the Legal Aid Justice Center, will be held from 1-3 p.m. at Ruffner Middle School, 610 May Ave., Norfolk, and is part of the "Don't Throw Away the Key" campaign. This campaign is committed to ensuring that the juvenile justice system is fair, and that the public and the incarcerated youth are protected.

In Virginia, transfer and certification laws give prosecutors discretion to try as adults youth as young as 14 and permit the incarceration of youth in adult jails and prisons. Among the principal goals of such transfer laws are the deterrence of juvenile crime and a reduction in the rate of recidivism. Recent research indicates, however, that recidivism rates may actually be higher for juveniles convicted in criminal court than for similar offenders adjudicated in juvenile courts.

Currently the Virginia State Crime Commission is studying the practice of trying and incarcerating youth as adults. A panel of national and local juvenile justice experts, including Bart Lubow of the Annie E. Casey Foundation; Dwayne Betts, author; Grace Bauer, advocate and community organizer; Judge Atkins of the Norfolk Juvenile Domestic and Relations Court; Sherri Carr, Norfolk's chief public defender; and Linda Bryant, Norfolk's deputy commonwealth attorney, will discuss the current efforts to reform the juvenile justice system in Virginia.

Many of these panelists will make a similar presentation at the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives conference in Norfolk July 25-29.

In an effort to involve young people in the movement to reform the juvenile justice system, the organizers are sponsoring a poetry competition as part of the Community Youth Justice Jam event. The contest is open to youth between the ages of 14-18 who are legal residents of Virginia.

Additional information about the event and the poetry contest is available from Kate Duvall, JustChildren Program, at kate@justice4all.org.

This article was posted on: July 17, 2009

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